ISLAMABAD: Technical Advisory Group (TAG) at the conclusion of its meeting on Monday appreciated the progress on polio eradication made in Pakistan over the past nine months.
The TAG recognized the progress made in the reduction of cases to an all-time low of five because of the government’s commitment; led by the prime minister, provincial leadership and support of the law enforcement agencies, as well as, security forces, ensuring the safety of hardworking vaccination teams.
It also commended Pakistan’s response to the recommendations from the last TAG in March this year and endorsed the one-team-one-family approach of the Emergency Operation Centre teams working towards the goal of polio eradication.
The TAG noted that transmission of wild polio virus persists in hotspots, core reservoirs of Karachi and across the Northern-Southern corridors.
For Pakistan to reach the goal of zero cases, the TAG urged for continued focus on improving the overall performance, decreasing the number of children being missed in the core reservoir areas and identifying and addressing the residual risks followed by swift action.
The provincial leadership of the programme presented TAG with a comprehensive picture of the epidemiological situation across the country, indicating the progress made in each province as well as the remaining gaps to end transmission of the polio virus.
Presenting the findings and recommendations at the conclusion of the meeting, TAG Chairman Jean Marc Olive said: “the TAG has reviewed the latest epidemiology and programme performance thoroughly. At this critical juncture, the outcome of TAG will help spotlight the remaining gaps and advise Pakistan’s programme on improving the planning and implementation of its National Emergency Action Plan”.
Prime Ministers Focal Point for Polio Eradication Senator, Ayesha Raza Farooq thanked members of the TAG as well as the provincial polio eradication teams for detailed and constructive deliberations during meetings.
“The key to interruption is for the programme to be fully aware of the remaining challenges and obstacles we need to overcome. Pakistan’s commitment is steadfast as witnessed by the substantial progress made this year. Built on a solid foundation of overwhelming political commitment and support, we remain on track to interrupt transmission”, she said.
Since the last TAG, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) has made considerable progress. Consequently, case numbers have come the lowest they have ever been. The number of children paralyzed by polio has dropped from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015 to 20 in 2016 and only five so far in 2017 as the immunity gaps continue to decline.
The two-day meeting drew polio experts from lead implementation partners World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), leadership and teams from provinces across Pakistan, senior representatives from across the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and key donors.
“Polio eradication has given us the tools and is the beginning of our efforts to reach our most vulnerable children with equitable access to health care. The best way to honour the commitment of our Frontline Health Workers who come from the same under-served communities is to ensure that we finish the job and build a better future for their children”, concluded Senator Farooq.
The TAG meets twice a year in Pakistan and Afghanistan to review progress and provide expert advice on the final road to reaching zero.